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November 13, 2013

White House Christmas Tree – On October 30, Secretary Fisher, along with John Wyckoff and Christian Nicholson, President of the New Jersey Christmas Tree Growers Association, welcomed White House staff to Wyckoff's Christmas Tree Farm in White Township as they selected trees for the White House. Wyckoff's was the winner of the New Jersey association’s annual tree contest and went on to win the National Christmas Tree Association annual tree competition.  That earned the family the right to present the White House Christmas tree to First Lady Michelle Obama in November.  The Department’s tradition of holding its annual tree cutting ceremony at the state winner’s farm will continue when Secretary Fisher visits Wyckoff’s farm again on December 2.

Hurricane Sandy Anniversary -- Secretary Fisher marked the one-year anniversary of Superstorm Sandy on October 29 by participating in Sandy Service Day, a volunteering opportunity. Secretary Fisher and state Corrections Commissioner Gary Lanigan helped work on fencing a community garden at Visitation Relief Center in Brick Township. Produce grown in the garden during the season was distributed to those in need. The two cabinet members also were present for the official grand opening of the center, where a variety of goods and services are available to Sandy victims. Brick Township was one of the communities hardest hit by the storm.  Earlier in the day, Fisher joined the Governor and other cabinet members for a memorial service in Newark.

State Food Purchase Program – In late October, the Department distributed $1,704,500 in State Food Purchase Program funds to the state’s six emergency feeding operations:  Community Foodbank of New Jersey in Hillside; the Food Bank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties in Neptune; NORWESCAP in Phillipsburg; the Foodbank of South Jersey in Pennsauken; Mercer Street Friends in Ewing; and Southern Regional Food Distribution Center in Vineland.  The distribution represents the second quarter funding for the program.

Outstanding Young Farmer – The 2014 Outstanding Young Farmer was announced on November 4.  Mitchell Jones, 36, a Warren County hay and grain producer, will be presented with his award at the February 2014 New Jersey State Agricultural Convention in Atlantic City.  Jones is a first-generation farmer, whose father worked for the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) of U.S. Department of Agriculture.  New Jersey annually recognizes the outstanding achievements of a young farmer who is an upstanding leader, respected agriculturalist and is active in community or faith organizations.  The Department of Agriculture is now accepting applications for the Year 2015 Outstanding Young Farmer (OYF) Award.  The submission deadline for nominations is January 15, 2014.

Agricultural Fair Ambassador -- Kayla Vaughan of Lafayette has been chosen as the 2014 New Jersey Agricultural Fair Ambassador.  The 18-year-old graduate of Sussex County Technical School was selected from among seven contestants by the Agricultural Fair Association of New Jersey during the group’s fall dinner on November 3 in Burlington County.  As ambassador, Vaughan is charged with visiting the state’s agricultural fairs in 2014, discussing the fairs, promoting agritourism to the public and bringing people together to support the state’s agriculture industry.  Vaughan is the fifth generation on her family’s dairy farm and is the current New Jersey Dairy Princess.  She has been active in Sussex County 4-H and ran the milking parlor at the New Jersey State Fair.  She studied commercial baking in high school and will is enrolled in the Culinary Institute of America with a goal of opening a bakery on her own dairy farm using her own natural products.

Jersey Fresh Availability Report – The weekly Jersey Fresh Availability and Forecast Report concluded this week, updating the region’s produce industry, Cooperative Extension staff, Department personnel, restaurateurs, Jersey Fresh licensed growers, food media communicators and the public on the current and future availability of Jersey Fresh produce. This information helps buyers with their Jersey Fresh purchasing and marketing decisions.

Aquaculture Workshop -- The “Aquaculture Business Management and Marketing” workshop was held October 17 in Galloway Township.  Twenty-seven attendees came from New Jersey, New York and Delaware.  Dr. Carol Engle of the University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff discussed guidelines that growers can use to maintain financial health, drawing from real-world examples in the catfish production sector. Dr. Madan Dey, also of UAPB, presented marketing analyses of aquaculture and seafood products using Nielsen and IRI national retail scanner data. Linda O’Dierno of the National Aquaculture Association gave advice on various conventional and niche marketing opportunities. The event was sponsored by the NJDA, NAA and the US Soybean Board.

FFA National Convention – More than 170 NJ representatives from 15 chapters and the State FFA Association attended the 86th National FFA Convention October 30 – November 2 in Indianapolis. Two members of the Office of Agricultural Education staff completed two separate terms of service to national FFA boards. Susan Butch was recognized for her three year service representing state staff nationwide on the National FFA Alumni Council.  Erin Noble was recognized for her three year term as the USDE (FFA Executive Secretary) on the National FFA Board of Directors. Erin also was selected by her Board peers to serve as the Board’s representative to oversee the National FFA Officer Selection process. 

Beginner Beekeeper Class – State Apiarist Tim Schuler taught the third beginner beekeeper class for the year in October, with 55 students who spent two and a half days at the Rutgers EcoComplex learning about the honey bee and beekeeping practices. This is the sixth year that Schuler has taught three beginner beekeeping classes during the year.

Eastern Equine Encephalitis Cases – During the last week in October, there were two more horses that were found to have Eastern Equine Encephalitis.  An 18-year-old stallion from Camden County first showed signs of the illness on October 24th and was euthanized on October 27th.    In addition a 2 and a half year-old female pony from Salem County tested positive for EEE. The horse began showing neurologic symptoms on October 20th and died on October 22nd.  There were a total of five cases this year.  EEE, a viral disease that affects horses’ neurological systems, is transmitted by mosquito bite.  EEE is a serious disease that causes inflammation of the brain tissue and has a high risk of death in horses.

Sire Stakes Program -- The 2013 Sire Stakes season concluded on October 25 at Freehold Raceway.  A total of 183 horses competed in stakes races restricted to New Jersey-breds this year, with the entire program valued at $3,091,497 in purse money.